Migration and HIV

Deane, K; Ngalya, P; Boniface, L; Bulugu, G; Urassa, M Global Public Health: An International Journal for Research, Policy and Practice, 2016; www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/17441692.2016.1178318?journalCode=rgp...

How does population mobility shape HIV vulnerability? To address this still relevant question, three studies explore migration as a structural driver of the epidemic.

Migration and population mobility have long been regarded as important structural factors driving HIV. Concerns in the public health literature conflict to some extent with the economics and international development literature, in which migration is often viewed as beneficial and desirable. Of late, the issue of migration has faded somewhat from the global HIV agenda despite its continuing relevance. Standard narratives regarding the relationship between migration and HIV are dominated by case studies derived from truck drivers and mineworkers, and supported by statistical work that reports inconsistent and often insignificant results, emphasising that this is a topic that requires further unpacking. 

A recent study in Global Public Health explores the influence of specific livelihood activities that involve mobility on sexual behaviour and HIV risk. It finds that the patterns and conditions of moving related to the requirements of each different economic activity influence: 

  • the nature of relationships that mobile groups have while away
  • how and where local sexual networks are accessed
  • the practicalities of having sex, with further implications for condom use 

Risk behaviours are also shaped by gender inequalities and by local sexual norms related to transactional sex. The influence of mobility and gender are interrelated, overlapping and difficult to disentangle. 


Image credit: Penina Samwell Ngalya

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